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BASE Jumping: Articles: Interviews and Profiles: Wwarped Interview: Even By Any Other Name, He Would Remain The Same

Wwarped Interview: Even By Any Other Name, He Would Remain The Same updated

by Cynthia Lynn
Basejumping Article Image1_medium

March 1-10, 2009

Pack up your perceptions of the man behind the title and avatar, let me introduce you to a person who is passionate about flying, has lead of life of travel and adventure, and takes moderating the forum as a way to educate and give back to the community. His cautious nature made him a tedious interview subject. Not in a way that leads you to think he is hiding anything, but rather a man who chooses his words carefully.

“Successful, intelligent, driven, and private”, these are some of the words that come to mind when attempting to characterize Wwarped. It would be lax of me if I didn’t note that he is also, “Complex, a contradiction, opinionated and egotistical at times”. He is a stranger among friends as the moderator of the forum. His profile reflects very little about the man as it barely contains enough information to signal he is a jumper. His Interests listed: The usual. Travel, flying, hiking, doll making, etc. with an occupation of “flying around aimlessly”. No totals registered in the fields for number of jumps or objects, the only evidence that he is a jumper is the notation of a Vertex container and FLik canopy. He immediately assures me that “I do not really make dolls, nor do I play with them, not even the blow up kind.” Oh, yes, lest I forget, “quirky sense of humor”.

His avatar is of the first flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. His forum name, ‘wwarped’ stems from the Aerodynamic term “wing warped”. His city, “Dayton”, home to the Wright brothers credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane. Occupation, “flying around aimlessly”, only if you forget what your destination is and being a successful pilot that error is not likely to occur. Wwarped: “See no mystery at all, simple to decipher if you take the time to “think” and not make “assumptions” while staring at the facts.”

In asking his reasoning in choosing “cremation and no marker” over a witty epitaph, he explained, “I never understood the rationale for burial and the ceremonies. Why mourn? Instead, celebrate how the deceased impacted you. If people choose to remember you, they do not need a marker.” It is this same philosophy that explains why he prefers jumping solo opposed to group outings and events, “leaving the exit point untainted, no photos, no video, no bragging rights.” He admires and respects fellow jumpers that “jump for personal satisfaction”, a philosophy he adheres to himself.

He offers a quote from Richard Bach, a favorite writer, pilot and author of the “Messiah’s Handbook” to punctuate his response when I question him on the importance of a jumper being able to jump solo.

“A fledgling leaps because it trusts its wings; a lemming leaps because everybody else is doing it. One is an adventure into new dimensions, the other is suicide.”---Richard Bach

“I feel it is very important to the development of a jumper. The night solo creates different thoughts in a jumpers mind. No one is around. No festive atmosphere exists. It is just yourself and the object. You must self rescue if anything unfortunate occurs. You receive zero comfort from others, no advice, and no gear check. You are totally reliant on your own judgment. In doing a solo jump I experience the feeling that there is no good reason to jump, except for an inner drive telling me I must. That it is who I am, therefore I jump.”

He speaks about emptying his mind prior to jumping “because the mind really does not understand jumping and only wants to panic”. “One key for me is to calmly decide to jump. I use a form of meditation that really came naturally to me. I just do some deep breathing and intentionally force myself to relax. Preparation creates a plan. If you prepare well, it should work. The planning ends with the decision to jump. After that, it is just execution. Yes, things can go wrong and do. I prefer a calm mind to a racing one, unfortunately, I have experienced both. I find I respond best to the jump with a empty mind.”

Wwarped believes the biggest mistake a new jumper makes is giving over trust completely to others, saying that it leads to hero worship and failed expectations. “The newbie’s memorize someone else’s judgment instead of developing their own. No one can prepare a jumper for everything they will encounter. It is a poor way to manage risk.” He attended what he refers to as a “how not to die course” in Kjerag, Norway with Chris “Douggs” McDougall as the instructor, 10 years after his first trip to Europe. “The mentor concept is functionally dead from what I've seen. It’s a great idea, but most struggle to find one. I know many jumpers, but none seem to mentor. My jump buddy and I guided each other in the early years. I had a ton of skydives and other aviation experience. He read everything he could find on BASE and forgot nothing, plus has a ton of contacts in the community. He’d pick people's brains on “how to” and “what not to do” of BASE jumping. I tended to be the calming influence when evaluating sites. All of which probably attributes my being very comfortable with solo jumps, I’ve had to be fairly independent learner.”

He has jumped from many of the legal sites including Twin Falls, Moab, Kjerag, Bridge Day, and the cliffs of South Africa. Not surprisingly Wwarped adheres to the “old school rules” of not discussing the illegal sites he has jumped. He obtained his B.A.S.E. number in 14 or 16 jumps, unsure of the number, but thinking “it was probably not nearly enough.” He logged 2700 skydives; has both Tandem and AFF instructional ratings, plus over a thousand instructional jumps. He didn’t really prepare or plan for BASE jumping, it was something that he “chose to do and did.” He calculated the risks and made his first jump at Bridge Day in 1994, like so many other skydivers turned BASE jumpers.

His voice takes on a tone of reverence when speaking of BASE jumping, like a philosopher weighing the meaning of life. He offers up another Richard Bach quote, something he does often mentioning that the quotes give him the opportunity to “pause and reflect” and he enjoys sharing them. “They remind me that the most important aspects of anything do not revolve around any particular fact, but how I choose to interpret them. Some jokes and insults appear virtually identical; the key difference is how someone chooses to perceive it. You can’t control events however; I still can control my life experiences by controlling my attitude towards that event.”

[i]“It’s easy to live the expected and conventional. It’s when you live the unexpected that you start having fun with your life.”-Richard Bach[/i]

He doesn’t have a favorite object to jump despite Table Mountain being the object that began his attraction to BASE. He speaks fondly of a place called “The Sentinel”. “It’s a legal cliff, on a point sandwiched between a bay and the ocean. A relatively short hike with a view of either heading towards the beaches or out towards the open ocean.” What does he enjoy most about BASE jumping? “As we become socialized, we acquire levels of bullshit that we think are important. BASE jumping forces me to shed those protocols and have a “pure” moment.

It not unreasonable that a man who enjoys solo jumping, old school ethics and operating under the radar of the internet, would find today’s world of BASE being unfiltered into cyberspace as his least favorite thing. “The Glory Hound: A narcissistic jumper that behaves in a fashion detrimental to BASE jumping. The true BASE fundamental is to perform audacious feats while actually minimizing personal risk, providing no harm to anyone else. It is not about videos, photos, or websites. It should not be a popularity contest.” BASE jumping contributed to his own personal growth following having to evacuate more than one jumper from a landing zone. The realization hit home that “we fret over the most mundane things in our daily lives. I often want to laugh when I hear ‘pay attention, this is important’, after witnessing death you understand what’s really important”.

He doesn’t shy away from the tough questions, despite his opinions not being “popular”. He refuses to be baited and badgered into answering posts calling into question his “experience”. He is constantly reminding himself to walk a thin line as moderator/jumper when it comes to debates on the forum. Between wearing his moderator hat, being a jumper himself and being passionate about protecting the ethics of BASE jumping sometimes it’s a struggle to remain out of the fray. He notes that one of the reasons for his anonymity is “it gives them less ammo to attack me.” I comment that this interview will certainly take away some of his anonymity, his response, “I would like to see more content on the site, so I am leading by example.”

Delving into the topic of videos on the internet I explained what my first thoughts after I discovered the world of BASE via the internet. “In viewing hundreds of pages including websites, social networking and videos regarding BASE jumping, the first thing that came to my mind is “cool, how do you learn to do that?” When viewing the videos of the "Red Bull Air Force" videos you sense the nonexistent warning crawler at the bottom of the screen saying, "Professional athlete. Do not try this at home." Obviously, they are filmed and edited at a higher quality and the athlete’s are dressed in sponsor’s attire. The same quality can be seen in extreme sports movies on the market for sale.

In researching BASE manufacturer’s websites I discovered they take online orders for equipment; with one such company clearly stating that ‘BASE-jumping is extremely dangerous! You may be seriously injured or killed. Morpheus Technologies and all of its affiliates advise you to seriously consider the potential consequences of your actions should you decide to pursue this sport. Do not use this equipment unless you accept full responsibility for any injury, serious or otherwise, including loss of life….continuing on and ending the statement….By clicking "Accept", you are releasing Morpheus Technologies and all of its affiliates of any responsibility or liability for injury, serious or otherwise, including loss of life.’

Assuming that your mental faculties are intact, all these warnings on BASE websites from forums, manufacturers and First Jump Course operators should clue you in on the dangers of taking up this venture. However, when viewing the "BASE jumping" videos loaded onto YouTube and social sites by average Joe jumper it might lead to the notion that "yes I am like you and your dumb little buddy and you can do this too".” That being said, how detrimental to the sport do you feel are the videos, WebPages, and photos on the internet are to the "sport" of BASE?

“I really don’t believe us, as a community can say how detrimental it will be or if it even is now. Time will tell. Without data, it’s all conjecture, even on my part. I can however fathom that some kid out there sees the You Tube video and then thinks he can jump off the town’s water tower with an old chute he finds in his grandfather’s garage. Or perhaps someone orders a rig online and because he thinks “it’s not so difficult”. We live today with a generation that wants to video, post blogs and share virtually every aspect of their lives. They seem incapable of understanding keeping things to them. As I don't understand the need to cast attention on oneself, it is hard to comment as to why they chose too. I think the videos deprive the founders of the sport a respect they deserve by having changed the rules.”

If you speak with Wwarped long enough you learn that for him life has always been about managing risk, suffering the consequences and accepting responsibility. He considers “surviving without being crippled” to the ripe “old” age of 46 as one of his life’s greatest achievements. He describes the events that befell him throughout his lifetime as though he is reading off a grocery list. “So many little things, like having fingers re-attached, the doctor pulling a toe nail from an eyelid, my skull barely escaping being crushed, an orthopedic doctor that seem certain that I would walk with a limp, neighbors mistaking me for being dead, rolling a car, surviving a head on collision, etc. Then there were the skydiving incidents. Unfortunately, I can’t claim I was doing anything important that required sacrifice. It’s not like I was off serving in the military. I am blessed to have recovered from so much.”

He graduated from the Ohio State University with a degree in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering, checking off another goal from his childhood dreams list. Another was fulfilled when he took a job immediately following graduation with NASA. Climbing aboard the Space Shuttle checked off another and then he realized his dream to travel the world or at least parts of it, when he quit his job at NASA, heading to both the European and African continents. Close to 2 years backpacking and living the adventurer’s life was spent in Africa then Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England. Early lessons in preparation and planning were taught during this time as his backpack was stolen leaving him stranded in the middle of Mwanza, Tanzania, Africa without clothes, money, or a way to survive. He did survive though, just as he had his whole life. He still views Cape Town, Africa with much love and plans on returning to what he calls in one breath a ‘vacation spot’ and in another “somewhere he could call home.” He chides me that if he had to explain it, I would not understand without having experienced the people and scenery it offers.

He returned home and proceeded to cross another childhood ambition off the list when he earned his wings, no not the kind Red Bull gives you, but rather a helicopter pilots. At last his passion for flying coming to fruition and providing a sense of “this is where I belong”. He credits flying with being able to “turn bad days into good days” and leaving him limited only by his abilities. He spends his days flying, instructing and looking for the next object that will catch his eye and desire to jump. His career and time constraints tax a large amount of his personal freedoms, pushing his recreational activities aside for now. He recently relocated; “again”, he says laughing. If he jumps every couple months he considers himself fortunate and as always he relishes that one “pure moment”. His current home is not a haven for jumpers and the objects have been hard to come by as well. Still he searches for that one object to make his own at his home away from home.

It was during a warm afternoon in a South African Café, Wwarped met with founder Sangiro to discuss joining the forum as a moderator. Sangiro outlined the rules, guidelines and his vision for the forum. “He talked of it being his living room and he wanted the forum to be a place of civil discourse to exchange ideas and network.” Wanting to make a contribution to BASE he joined forces with Sangiro and “attempts to steer or maintain orderly discussion on the forum.” I asked him if there is anything he would change about “I wish I could get people to stay on topic, express their views instead of snarky comments. I think the “drama” keeps the lurkers from posting and contributing to the conversation, which in the end harms the BASE community. Drama can chase away someone that has a great deal to offer. I would like to see people sharing more jump stories, not simply the facts regarding the jump. Rather taking us through the preparation all the way through what it meant to them to accomplish the jump.”

I point out that the APEX Base manufacturer’s website has a link to Sports Illustrated Online promoting Bridge Day in the sport of BASE jumping with photos of the event. Apex states: "Are we in danger of becoming a recognized sport? We are overdue!" I question him on the issue of “sport” vs. “non-sport” knowing that he himself views BASE jumping as an activity, calls himself an ‘adventurer’ rather than an athlete. He has said that he “consider jumping something to do, like hiking or camping”. I ask him how he reconciles or can he, that there are those that consider it a sport and promote it as such? Is there room for it to still be enjoyed by "old school" jumpers who prefer the anonymity that it once held if it grows into a recognized sport?

“BASE jumping is like golf. To Tiger and company, it might be a sport. To the average Joe, it is just a leisure activity. The label "Sport" seems more of a marketing term than anything else. "Sports" typically involve competition. I don't know of any BASE competitions that have lasted. Surely one will involve including some aspects of BASE. If the folks making money off of BASE think they can enhance revenues by calling it a "sport," I have no gripe as to why they should not. I believe that if you enjoy the old school style of BASE, you will always find objects to jump. I have spent my years in BASE out of the spotlight, doing my own thing, remaining true to the founder’s ethics. I’d like to think that there are more jumpers’ out there doing the same and they aren’t all “old guys”.”

The world of BASE jumpers’ simmers with a great deal of animosity towards the corporate world finding its way into BASE, or at least a loud vocal few. Obviously, the gear company's and First Base Jump Course operators are a business, part of the corporate world. Bringing to light that in purchasing gear, taking a course or participating in an event from these companies is in essence supporting "corporate BASE". The days of someone with the skills of Rigger Lee manufacturing his own rig and heading off to jump at Bridge Day are long gone. I asked him if the idea of being anti-corporate, anti-authority, originated with the founders or evolved with an influx of new jumper’s.

“It feels like a legacy of the '60s counter culture where the choice was selling out to "the man" or maintaining “individuality”. I really have no clue how Carl felt about the sport going mainstream. That’s a question for historians like Nick DiGiovani. Everything changes, mutates. It starts as one thing and changes to another. People frequently resent change. It happens everywhere, creating friction. Why should BASE be any different? The newer jumpers will most likely not notice, instead of supporting those that developed the sport, they will be supporting the mercenaries who only wish to extract money. As seen in so many arenas, the newer generations feel less constrained by the past. Where the older generation thinks some behavior is unethical, the new generation sees opportunity.”

He confides that “denied reality” has been his greatest weakness in life and jumping. “So much about life is how we choose to perceive a certain set of facts. It is way too easy to be delusional and see things that are not supported by facts. At the extreme end of the spectrum, you’ll find stalkers, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. All deny the reality in front of them. Heck, something like 70% of drivers believe they are above average!” He explains that all too often his choices were fueled by anger and that he will admit in his younger years “jumping out of the anger” as part of “denied reality”.

“Seeming to have all the answers and yet missing the big picture”. A trait he tries to point out to younger jumpers on the forum when he warns them to “stay on topic”. He can now wax philosophical in his “old” age as he continues his journey unflinching in the face of trouble, failure and loss. He is on the right path, where he belongs, enjoying the role of being a teacher to those willing to be students. No videos, no proof, no bragging rights, no grave markers and no need to scream “look at me and what I have accomplished”; his satisfaction comes in answering only to himself. And so, the philosopher, teacher, loner offers me one more quote.

“You build the appearances around you. You get exactly what you deserve. Who’s to blame, who’s to credit, but you? Who can change it, any time you wish, but you?”-Richard Bach

Quick questions with Wwarped:

Q: What do you feel is your contribution to BASE?
A: Moderating the forum

Q: What makes you unique to BASE?
A: Absolutely nothing

Q: Is there a time you see yourself retiring from BASE jumping?
A: I’d have to be far more active to be able to retire. Retiring happens only after being committed.

Q: Do you have a workout regime?
A: Tai Chi, Running and Yoga

Q: Is there anything you will not try in life? A: Yes. Liver, brains, ect. These are not food items.

Q: On a scale of 1-10, how pigheaded are you?
A: 11

Q: Why do you think you were chosen to be the next interview?
A: People are curious and this is a perfect medium for them to discover facts about myself.

Q: Who do you chose as the next interview subject?
A: Annibal and Calvin19 (sister/brother)

Q: What is your biggest fear?
A: Generally nothing until I agreed to be interviewed by you.

Wwarped Statistics:

  • Age: 46
  • Marital Status: Single
  • Children: None
  • Location: Gulf Coast, United States
  • Number of Jumps: Less than a hundred
  • Year of first Jump: 1994
  • Container: Vertex
  • Canopy: FLik

All rights reserved. No republication of this material, in any form or medium, is permitted without express permission of the author.

Submitted by Cynthia Lynn on 2009-09-25 | Last Modified on 2010-04-22

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